Ministers FINALLY set to review UK lockdown extension in emergency meeting


MINISTERS will today sit in an emergency Cobra meeting to discuss whether to extend the UK lockdown.

Ministers are to discuss a review of the UK’s lockdown and whether they believe it necessary to extend the current restrictions. Downing Street’s emergency Cobra committee meeting will consider evidence from leading scientists on how successful the measures have so far been.

The UK has been on lockdown for two-and-a-half weeks, though rules have been more relaxed compared to other countries.

It comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson enters his fifth day in hospital.

On Monday Mr Johnson was admitted to intensive care as his coronavirus symptoms worsened.

Many Britons will be tempted to venture out over Easter as the Met Office predicts temperatures could reach 25C (77F) in some parts of the country.

The weather is likely to be a factor in minsters’ decision, as recent warm weekends have seen people flock in their thousands to parks and natural beauty spots around the country.

Political leaders across the UK are preparing to unite to deliver a “stay at home this Easter” campaign, according to The Times.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab – who is deputising for Mr Johnson as he continues treatment for the virus – will chair the virtual Cobra meeting.

Also digitally present: leaders of the devolved nations.

In Wales, First Minister Mark Drakeford has already announced that lockdown measures will stay in place beyond next week.

The move has led many to speculate that the government will likely make a smilier move.

According to new laws, a review of restrictions put in place to slow the spread of coronavirus must happen by 16 April.

On Wednesday the UK recorded its highest daily rise in the number of patients dying from COVID-19 – and increase of 938 deaths on Tuesday.

It brought the total death toll to 7,097.

Meanwhile, Mr Johnson “continues to make steady progress” but remains in intensive care at St Thomas’ Hospital in London, according to the latest update from Downing Street.

Far from the immediate impact of the virus are the longer-lasting economic implications.

A leading economic think tank says the pandemic will have dire consequences for people’s health in the UK because of the knock-on effect on the NHS and likely financial downturn.

A briefing note from the Institute for Fiscal Studies suggests that wide-scale job losses could deepen inequalities, while the knock-on effects of cancelling non-urgent operations may take years to reverse.

One of the paper’s authors, Heidi Karjalainen, said: “The health impacts of the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic will be felt long after the social distancing measures come to an end.”

According to the government’s coronavirus legislation, the health secretary must review the need for restrictions on movement – announced by Mr Johnson on 23 March – at least once every 21 days.

During the government’s daily coronavirus briefing, Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the review would happen at some point around the three-week point.

This review, he explained, would be based on evidence that will “only be available next week”.

He added: “I think rather than speculate about the future, I think we should focus very seriously on the here and now and the present.”